That was all that separated the Oshkosh West volleyball team from a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Hartford Union Orioles in a WIAA Division 1 regional final match on Saturday on Steven L. Randall Court.
But Hartford would never get that point, as the Wildcats rallied from down 24-20 in the third set to win 3-2 and set up a rematch with the Neenah Rockets in the sectionals next Thursday.
And it all started with Danielle Dillman.
West found themselves down two sets and on the verge of losing set three at 24-20, as they made too many errors that Hartford was able to capitalize on.
Enter Dillman. Serving at 24-20 and the season hanging in the balance, the junior was able to put all six serves in, including an ace on the clinching point, to send the match to a third set.
“It felt awesome, I jumped like 20 feet in the air,” Dillman said. “It really took focus and it took a whole team effort to do that, it was really amazing.”
West wasn’t done, parlaying that momentum into another 25-21 set win in the fourth to send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
Coach Gillian Pakula didn’t even need to say anything coming out after the third-set win.
“It was a senior-led discussion at that point,” she said. “They knew they could do it and it was all just, ‘Come on. Believe.'”
The fifth set started out tight, as both team traded points back and forth until West held a 6-5 lead.
That’s when a substitution error by Hartford stopped the match for five minutes, killing any juice that was in the gym.
However, West was able to come out of that prolonged break with a 9-1 run to finish the match off and become regional champs.
“We just tried to push it out of our minds,” freshman outside hitter Anna Kaminski said. “We just focused on what we were going for.”
Kaminski was a huge part of the West comeback. The freshman looked every bit the part of an upperclassmen, knocking in 17 kills and providing six blocks for the Wildcats.
“My teammates helped me and encouraged me and pushed me,” Kaminski said. “I just try my hardest everytime I go up to hit.”
The Wildcats got plenty of other big games from a lot of different players. Allie Rueger totaled 22 kills and four blocks on the night and Taylor Skroski pitched in eight, most of which occured late in the match, while Maddy Haedt tallied 44 assists and 15 digs.
West also got plenty of other big contributions from everyone who played and it took them all to get the job done.
“It took a lot of concentration from all of us and it took the whole team to be able to do that,” Dillman said. “It really showed that we wanted it. We wanted it so badly.”
Now, West gets the matchup that they’ve wanted all along — a rematch with Fox Valley Association champ Neenah, a team that handed the Wildcats their only loss of the season in the first match of conference play.
Nothing would be sweeter for the Wildcats than to knock off the Rockets.
“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” Pakula said. “We’ve been talking all season about getting to this game. We get to host, we are setting ourselves up for this.
“I feel like it’s going to be a great matchup and it’s going to be a great environment in here.”
Oshkosh West def. Hartford Union, 21-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-21, 15-6.
OW — Allie Rueger 22 kills, 4 blocks; Anna Kaminski 17 kills, 6 blocks; Taylor Skroski 8 kills; Maddy Haedt 44 assists, 15 digs; Leah Salzer 23 digs; Megan Paulick 16 digs; Danielle Dillman 4 aces.